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49ers draw controversial referee for NFC Championship game against the Lions

Clete Blakeman will be the referee for the Niners game against the Lions on Sunday

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

They are bound to miss calls even in a playoff setting with the best referees and all-star crews. The San Francisco 49ers defense thought Tashaun Gipson’s defensive pass interference early in the game was a ticky-tack call.

I thought the refs missed an illegal contact penalty against Ray-Ray McCloud when he had a reception on second down and an incomplete pass to George Kittle later. But you could play that game and cry for penalties on every play if you watched the game in slow motion.

This week’s referee assigned to the NFC Championship game is Clete Blakeman. While it’s true that it’ll be Blakeman and a mixed crew of “all-star” officials, his crews averaged nearly 11 penalties a game when Blakeman was in charge. So get ready for a flag-fest.

Experience isn’t an issue for Blakeman. This is his 14th season as a referee and his 14th playoff assignment. It’ll be Blakeman’s fifth Conference Championship to date.

When the Seattle Seahawks faced the Dallas Cowboys in November, Blakeman’s crew forgot to reset the play clock in the first quarter of the Thursday night game. Instead of the Seahawks kicking a 37-yard field goal, they were flagged for a delay of game penalty to push the kick back to 42 yards and eventually missed the kick wide right.

Blakeman botched the play twice. Not only did they fail to reset the clock, but Pete Carroll was on the sideline screaming for a timeout before the play clock hit zero, but he was not granted a timeout.

Lions’ fans think they’re getting the short end of the stick, as Blakeman oversaw the crew in a Lions 2019 game against the Green Bay Packers, where they threw two illegal hands to the face penalties on Detroit that the NFL would go on to admit that both calls were incorrect. This play went from a sack to a first down:

On the ensuing drive, this was not flagged for pass interference:

Looking through the gamebook data, Blakeman’s crew has been assigned to five Lions games since this, and Detroit has been on the losing end of four of those contests, despite Blakeman’s crew calling more penalties on the team that would go on to win.

In the article’s lead photo, former Niners cornerback Carlos Rogers is seen barking at Blakeman after he was flagged for a taunting penalty. Ideally, the 49ers don’t make this game close or give the reason for the refs to be in a controversial position.